New provincial rules about how to make communication, commerce and recreation easier for people with visible and invisible disabilities have prompted the City of Port Coquitlam to release an accessibility plan.
And the City of Coquitlam will follow suit next year with its own version.
This month, Port Coquitlam came out with its Accessibility Action Plan — after the provincial government passed the Accessible BC Act in 2021 — that's designed to remove barriers so that all residents can participate in community activities, regardless of their age or ability.
PoCo's plan, which was developed by its Accessibility Committee that includes members of the city's Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Roundtable, zeros in goals and actions in five categories to guide civic policies and priorities:
- service delivery
- built environment
- information and communications
The municipality is asking for feedback on existing barriers and to help shape future Accessibility Action Plans. You can visit the city's website to give input.
Last year, PoCo achieved a gold-rating status from the Rick Hansen Foundation for adding universal and accessible amenities in the new Port Coquitlam Community Centre.
Accessibility upgrades have been included at other city facilities such as Hyde Creek Recreation Centre (parking, ramp and elevator access, and pool features) and Routley Park.
Meanwhile, in Coquitlam, the city expects to start working on its accessibility plan next year, according to a report that went before the city's council-in-committee last month.
Nikki Caulfield, Coquitlam's general manager of corporate services, said with the province's widened definition of the term "accessibility," the city is looking at new ways to assist residents who may have visual or hearing impairments, language challenges or are neurodivergent, for example.
To date, she said, Coquitlam City Hall has made a number of strides to be more accessible-friendly internally and externally, including:
- Microsoft Teams enhancements
- the city's main business communication platform was updated to include key features such as having live captions and transcription during meetings, magnifying screen content, using high-contrast colours and including a video spotlight for sign language interpreters
- BC Sans Font and Alternative Text
- to improve accessibility and readability on print and digital platforms, Coquitlam recently changed its font from The Sans Office to BC Sans Font, a typeface created by the provincial government that can use special characters (like for Indigenous names). As well, there is now Alternative Text on images to help describe visual elements to people who are blind or have difficulty seeing
- Coquitlam will collaborate with community groups such as the Tri-Cities Local Immigration Partnership to promote accessibility and inclusion with new Canadians
As for the $82,500 grant disbursed to Coquitlam last year by the Rick Hansen Foundation, city staff focused on accessible updates at three facilities: Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex, Dogwood Pavilion and the Town Centre Park Community Centre (formerly the Innovation Centre, next to the Evergreen Cultural Centre).
As a result, the three venues now have automatic door openers and colour-contrasting decals on window glazing. In addition, the Mike Butler Room at the 50-plus centre now has an accessible lift to the stage, and accessible amenities are part of the Town Centre Park Community Centre renovation.
A hearing loop — a special type of sound system that allows Deaf or hard of hearing people to receive sound — was also installed in the council chambers at city hall and at the Maillardville Community Centre.
And soon the city will have virtual tours of the City Centre Aquatic Complex and Poirier on the city's website to highlight the building layouts and accessible features.
Next year, Coquitlam hopes to have the Rick Hansen Foundation certification stamp at the following six facilities:
- Poirier Sport and Leisure Complex
- Dogwood Pavilion
- Town Centre Park Community Centre
- City Hall
- Maillardville Community Centre
- Glen Pine Pavilion
To date, Coquitlam’s accessibility upgrades have been funded with grants and the $100,000 allocated in 2021 to set up the city's Equity, Diversity and Inclusion division.